On a Saturday night where Australia held-off Wales with two men in the sin-bin, Stephen Moore and Michael Cheika reflect on a victory that announces Australia as a serious threat to New Zealand’s World Cup crown.
Coach Cheika is never one to be too self-congratulatory, but even the hard-nosed Wallabies man had to appreciate the commitment of his men to survive Wales’ eight-mintue siege while two of his men were off the pitch.
“I’m not shy to say that I’m very proud of the lads and their resilience to go and do what they did,” the 48-year-old admitted in his post-match press conference after the 16-5 victory.
“There are still plenty of imperfections in our game which is something that we will have to improve.
“The team is working hard together and that good work ethic is what saw us through.”
On being asked to compare this victory with the Wallabies’ win over hosts England, Cheika’s smile said it all.
“Being a forward I liked tonight’s win as there wasn’t much skill out there but it was all about grit and hard work.
“I’m a big believer that you don’t get belief from days like today, but you already have the belief to get you through it in the first place.
“They (Wales) are a good team and are very well coached. They caused us a lot of trouble and brought something we haven’t seen in the choke tackle and that got to us early on.
“I think they had a few tricks up their sleeve and moved us around a lot. A very well coached side. I like that they have players who play with a lot of passion.”
Captain Stephen Moore was equally humble about his side’s victory that will see Australia play against Scotland in the quarter-finals.
“The guys just did their job,” Moore said. “We just keep it fairly simple and work hard for each other. We train hard, you don’t magically produce results like this, it is all about hard work.
“You just want guys to execute their role to the best of their ability. The guys who came off the bench for us made a huge impact on the game and moments like Ben McCalman’s try-saving tackle is an example of the little moments that can win these games.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland was visibly agonized to fall-short of beating a team Wales had lost to in their 11 previous encounters but was quick to congratulate the victors.
“It was courageous defence by Australia and they really put their bodies on the line,” the New Zealander admitted. “It’s all about fine margins and if Dan Biggar kicks the penalty on half-time, we are even and have a new mindset going into the next half.
“There wasn’t a lot between the two teams. Our defence was outstanding and they didn’t put us under too much pressure in attack.
On Wales’ quarter-final against South Africa at Twickenham next week, Gatland was confident that Wales wouldn’t dwell on the loss to Australia for long.
“The guys are a bit battered and bruised and that is what test match rugby is about.
“We have a seven-day turnaround so we will be rested. South Africa have gone back to what they are best at with one-off runners coming off the nine. If we scrum and lineout well then we will have a chance.”
Wales turned down two opportunities to kick penalties in the second-half in favour of kicking for touch, but captain Sam Warburton was adamant that he had made the correct decision.
“We backed ourselves to go for the corner when they were a few players down and I would do the same again.
“If we spend that much time in their 22 then we have to come away with more points.
“Any country would have backed themselves to go over (the tryline) in the same situation.
“I can honestly sit here and say I have no regrets as we chucked everything at them.”
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